By Michael B. McMillion, senior mechanical engineer, coal operations support, CONSOL Energy

While MSHA continues to develop regulations governing the implementation of proximity detection, the mining industry has been very proactive in applying this technology ahead of definitive ruling. Multiple proximity detection systems are accumulating operating time and experience in underground coal mines with approved permissible systems installed on various equipment. In addition to the proximity suppliers, coal operators are gaining experience in managing the application of these systems. For the testing carried out in mines, the coal companies have been developing specifications for operation with these systems, funding the purchase of hardware, making equipment available for installation, and providing manpower for training and oversight. The proximity system suppliers continue to invest capital in correcting deficiencies which are identified in these tests and continuously improving their systems in regards to functionality and reliability. Further, they are investing in production capability and manpower for support to meet expanding application.

CONSOL started testing on a place-change continuous miner with proximity detection in March 2011 which continues today. Even though contact incidents with remote-controlled continuous miners provided the driving force for developing the technology, it is clear from statistics and operational analysis that other mobile equipment presents a risk of man-machine contact. In response to this, CONSOL implemented a test of proximity detection in a miner section on two shuttle cars, a loader and a scoop. This test started in August 2011 and it also continues today. The presentation will cover some of the experiences in managing the implementation of these systems with more detail regarding the start-up. CONSOL continues to install proximity detection on additional equipment in preparation to expand operation. Beyond mobile equipment, CONSOL realized the risk of contact incidents with longwall roof supports as well. At the same time CONSOL was gearing up to test proximity detection on continuous miners, Longwall Shield manufacturers were contacted and encouraged to develop proximity detection wherein CONSOL offered to provide locations for testing. Caterpillar has developed a proximity detection system which is integrated into the PMC-R roof support control system and is eventually planned for installation on four new sets of shields for CONSOL. The presentation will describe the proximity related hardware and expected operation on the face.